Police Station Video Surveillance Guide

By Brian Rhodes, Published Jul 15, 2015, 12:00am EDT

This 18-page guide explains the key uses, design factors, and players in the Police Station Surveillance market.

 

A global group of 50 integrators and consultants with police project experience responded, each offering insights in selling, implementing, and maintaining police station video surveillance systems.

This is a continuation in our vertical specific survey series. Others include: 

Questions Answered

In this survey, we share insights on these aspects of police station surveillance systems:

(1) Most Common Camera Locations

(2) Most Popular Form Factors

(3) Most Common Camera Manufacturers

(4) Most Common VMSes Deployed

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(5) Audio Surveillance Used

(6) Police/LEO Department Specialty Integrations

(7) Video Storage Duration

(8) Most Common System Integrations

(9) System Specifications Writers and Issues

(10) Biggest Surveillance Improvement Needed

The list below summarizes the key finding and patterns found:

  1. Camera Locations: Police Stations utilize surveillance in a blanket fashion, with all areas covered if budget permits. However, the public access points, holding cells/booking areas, and interview rooms recieve the highest priority.
  2. Form Factors: Domes far and away are the most common type, although corner mounted cameras find considerable use in cells. The strength of dome shape, versus aesthetic appeal is the driving factor.
  3. Vandal Resistant, Anti-Suicide Common: In terms of specialty features, vandal rated housings are universally applied, even outdoors. In addition, the cameras used inside cells are increasingly 'anti-suicide' or ligature-proof models.
  4. Growing Body Worn Camera Interest: Current interest in officer body-worn cameras is growing, but only a few concrete examples of more than test applications are reported by our responders.
  5. Cameras / VMSes:  In general, premium lines of cameras and VMS platforms are typical, with the Polikce Department segment more relunctant to use budget line camera brands than the SMB market..
  6. Audio Recording: In interview rooms and jails, audio integration is extensively used. While the preference is for tight integration between them, in many cases seperate recording systems with local recording controls are made available inside the room.  In the case of jail cells, audio fidelity is the number one issue, due to the acoustically unfriendly, hard materials used to build the strong cell.
  7. System Integrations: In general, integrating with other systems is not typical. 'No integrations' are the most common answer, but access control and intrusion detection being the most common tie-ins when integration is used.
  8. Storage: In most cases, one month of system recordings are kept, although the duration would likely increase if funding supported longer times.  
  9. Specifications: In the majority of projects, integrators are key members of the design committee, unlike City or Airport systems where specialty consultants and A&Es are typically used.
  10. Needed Improvements:  In many answers, integrators blamed the lack of strong system planning as the cause of poor maintenance, shoddy expansions, and old equipment. Aside from that, many responses mentioned that upgrading to modern equipment would have a big impact in many systems,with greater resolutions or better microphones offering a big boost.

Camera Locations

Question: What are the most common locations for deploying cameras in Police Departments?  Why?

Summary: Police Departments use surveillance extensively, primarily for logging those in custody and the public who enter the facility or interact with those inside.  

The sections below include response color for each area: 

Public Entry, Public Gathering, and Perimeter Points

At the locations where the public at large interacts with officers or the facility, surveillance is a priority.

  • "Entrance, reception, outdoor perimeter. Is the places where the policeman come into contact with outsiders and can be used as proof."
  • "All entries, Cafeteria, Gym, workout rooms, Cell common areas, visitors areas, Medical treatment, Interview rooms, outside general surveillance."
  • "All Building entrance doors and the main sidewalk - through fares through campus."
  • "Canada has increased the required coverage for Police stations to monitor and record "Guests" as the arrive and depart from the site. They must be recorded all the way to the property line."
  • "Interior cameras in the hallways with restricted access to ensure there is no unauthorized access. Exterior cameras for perimeter coverage (entrance doors, parking areas, outside walls of jail) to monitor and record any incidents with the public or any attempts to get items into (or out of) the jail."
  • "Lobby, to watch the public coming into the precinct. Entrances to the facility, to maintain surveillance on the perimeter."

Interview Rooms, Booking, and Holding Cells

As expected, the spots within an police station where suspects are detained or interviews are conducted are heavy surveillance locations, often including audio as well as video recording.

  • "Interview rooms and holding cells which are usually called a "fishbowl" because they hold multiple offenders."
  • "Interview rooms, so that when a person is being interviewed by detectives, the detectives have visual and audio playback. Jail Cells / Pods, to protect the inmate and the guards. Same as above, recollection of an event if needed."
  • "Investigation Rooms-Cameras with audio to record interviews and alcohol breath tests. Jail-To ensure the safety of the inmates and the officers Booking-Evidence of the booking process."
  • "Booking Rooms and Holding Cells. You need a record of what happened while the prisoner was in your custody, even if you think you can hear what's happening from the post outside holding."
  • "Fingerprinting area, for proof and safety. The Intoximeter room, for protocols verification.  Holding cells, for prisoner observing."
  • "Anywhere a suspect can go (except maybe a washroom) the police need to account for it. If there is mystery a defence attorney may try to create enough doubt to influence the outcome of the case."

Vehicle Entry, Gates, and Sally Ports

The next tier of surveillance priorities fall to the gates or enclosed areas (sally ports) where arrested subjects are transferred from vehicles to inside the police station.

  • "Sally ports, intake and booking areas, interview rooms."
  • "In the places where the policeman come into contact with outsiders and can be used as a proof."
  • "Prisoner transfer facilities that are temporary holding areas prior to transfer to jail or court have video outside at prisoner to vehicle areas."
  • "If you show video from the time the suspect entered to the time they leave, then you can't be charged with police brutality, etc or false arrest or misconduct. "
  • "Sally Port, All entries"
  • "Walkways, Sally ports & booking areas. To keep an eye on prisoner and police interactions."

Video Documentation Key

The common goal for all of these locations are video recordings. In many cases regardless of the location named, the reason was collecting a record of events if needed later:

  • "Want high detail record of what is happening once a person enters."
  • "Recollection of an event if needed."
  • "Ensure that the integrity of the evidence is maintained."
  • "The places where the policeman come into contact with outsiders and can be used as a proof."
  • "Almost any area where police will be interacting with the public would get coverage."
  • "If you show video from the time the suspect entered to the time they leave, then you can't be charged with police brutality, etc or false arrest or misconduct."

Which Form Factors Used Most?

Question: Which camera form factor is most common for Police surveillance systems? Are any 'special' factors common, like covert, vandal resistant, or anti-ligature models?

Summary: In general, the biggest attribute were selecting vandal resistent cameras, with many responses suggesting that both interior and exterior models get the rating. While multiple form factors were cited, vandal domes (naturally?) are the most popular overall. Also, several responses mentioned that anti-suicide/anti-ligature cameras are frequently used inside of holding cells.

Vandal Resistant

Overall, cameras that are marketed to withstand abuse are common which several using them everywhere, not just vulnerable low-hanging indoor models. Interestingly, almost none of the answers specified an 'IK' rating, but otherwise cited the much more non-specific (and prone to manufacterer abuse) 'Vandal Resistant' rating:

  • "Vandal-resistant is very common."
  • "Holding cell cameras are often in vandal-resistant corner enclosures."
  • "Mostly just vandal resistant, they mostly want a general view of whats happening. If its outside they'll request IR cameras."
  • "Mainly they use bullet camera, vandal resistant."
  • "Camera form factor is always dependent on the deployment location. vandal resistant, detention grade, etc. where appropriate."
  • "We always use Vandal Resistant domes for interior cameras. Exterior are a mix of Bullet and Vandal Resistant Domes."
  • "Lots of wedge style cameras and then fixed domes on exterior."

Corner Mount and Vandal Domes

Within the 'vandal resistent' specification, many specifically cited domes that offer the greatest variety of vandal rated models. However, another prevalent for factor are corner-mount cameras. Although overall less common that bullets or boxes, they are popular choices within police departments:

  • "Vandal resistant domes or corner mount domes."
  • "Vandal resistant domes have been the most common form factor. We also use cameras with an IR in the jail area where the inmate might be sleeping."
  • "Vandal resistant is the main concern and therefore dome cameras are a popular choice."
  • "Our most common camera is the vandal resistant dome, except in holding cells where we use the Mobotix V-series cameras."
  • "Varys from agency to agency usually hardened, vandal proof, stainless, corner mounts, extreme attack proof Domes, PTz, Ceiling mounted, We've seen it all out there."
  • "There were quite a few analog corner/ceiling mount cameras that presented only one smooth surface we would utilize in the analog days. It is a bit more challenging with the current IP cameras on the market."
  • "Holding cell cameras are often in vandal-resistant corner enclosures."

Covert Not Commonplace

Only a few responses mentioned using covert equipment, and those answers made it clear it only selectively is deployed, usually in interview rooms:

  • "Interview room cameras are often covert, though occasionally a police chief will explicitly ask that they be visible in at least some of the rooms."
  • "Vandalproof domes for most rooms, covert for interview rooms but that is at the discrection of the prosecutor. "
  • "We have done a few coverts in interview rooms"
  • "Vandal Resistant is the major form factor. There is a small amount of covert in use, but it is not significant."
  • "Covert has been rarely requested. Vandal-resistant is very common."
  • "Most places aren't concerned with cameras being covert. I think most people expect to be on camera when they are in a police station."

Anti-Ligature Inside Cells

Finally, cameras designed without exposed bind points or edges are common inside of jail cells to mitigate the risk of inmate injury, but anti-ligature units (ie: these examples from Axis, Bosch [link no longer available], and Vivotek) are not common elsewhere in the facility:

  • "Anti-ligature models are standard in holding cells. Most all other locations are at least IK-10 vandal resistant and for areas subject to "causal" contact, we use VE type housings to protect against bodily fluids, even in conditioned spaces."
  • "In the holding cells it is frequently requested that the cameras have no accessible surfaces to grip on. Apparently attempted suicides were driving this concern."
  • "We use vandal resistant domes almost exclusively. Anti-ligature is getting more popular but only inside cells for now."
  • "All are vandal resistant and we have done a few coverts in interview rooms. We are currently upgrading 2 departments with Axis' new anti-ligature camera."

Special Applications

Question: How common are specialty applications like mantraps, sally ports, interview rooms, or officer-worn body cameras?  Which ones are most common? 

Summary: For Police Stations, Interview Rooms are typical everywhere. Access controlled areas like Sally Ports or Mantraps are only common when the station also includes a jail or detention areas.

Sally Ports and Mantraps

  • "We've only done one man-trap, but sally-ports and interview rooms are always mandatory."
  • "Man-traps are quite common in my experience. These are used particularly in areas where offenders are being moved from one secured area to another. "
  • " Facilities with prisoner transfer or holding always have video at mantraps, sally ports, interview, booking, paths of transfer, etc. "
  • "Sally-ports are standard in building surveillance."
  • "Man traps are very common. We see sally ports in the PDs around one office a lot more than we see it in our other three."
  • "Sally ports are very common for the dock areas where suspects and evidence are brought into the building."

Interview Rooms 

With these applications, audio is often as critical as video. Collected voice recordings are highly valued as evidence during investigations. As such, it is common for these rooms to be stand-alone systems that have operational controls available to law enforcement at the room.  Comments like:

"Each interview room will also have a control room where recording is initiated by an officer or detective during the times that they are legally allowed to record" 

were common, and the nuances of audio recording were substantial enough to warrant a seperate followup question:

  • "Most PD headquarters and offsite precinct offices have multiple interview rooms containing video and audio recording devices. Each interview room will also have a control room where recording is initiated by an officer or detective during the times that they are legally allowed to record."
  • "Interview rooms are a constant in every police station/law enforcement center we've ever been in."
  • "Our company is focused on interview rooms. Most department offices now feature interview rooms and are shopping for recorders."
  • "Interview rooms are very common, but may or may not be tied in with the building surveillance."
  • "We have quoted a few interview rooms, but either the cost have kept them from implementing or they were integrated into much larger projects due to capital cost."
  • "Interview rooms are common, though they typically are on a separate stand-alone system from the rest of the CCTV system (analog DVRs)."

Body Worn Uncommon, but Growing

And then a newer segment, wearable cameras, was cited by many as still sporadic but growing in interest and adoption.  In many cases, formal studies or funding have just recently been applied for and adoption is not widespread but may be in the intermediate future.

  • "We haven't done any body cameras yet but are speaking with a few departments about them."
  • "Officer worn cameras are becoming more common place. Many PD's now have stations that can ingest the video from the officer worn cameras into their main VMS."
  • "Officer-worn cameras are slowly getting more common."
  • "Body cameras are a hot topic right now. Seems like Tazer owns the market as its a brand the PD recognizes and it is an affordable solution."
  • "We have seen advertisements for body worn video and even supported the demonstration of various systems for some customers but ultimately all of those procurements were eventually cancelled due to budget constraints or issues with not knowing what they really wanted."

Common Camera Manufacturers

Question: What camera manufacturers do you most often see in Police surveillance systems? Any idea why they are chosen?

Summary: Mainstream, premium brands were commonly cited. In most cases, more than one brand was named, with brand selection following the project size and budget. However, contrary to SMB results, even smaller systems tended to specify premium brands, with budget brands much less common:

  • "Axis and Pelco are the main brands. I think Pelco is the go to brand as there have been large contracts for this brand in most of the larger deployments, and the PD's have trust in the brand. Axis is more common when the integrator has choice in what camera brand is selected."
  • "Axis is all we have ever used for the Police, we and they can't afford to have any failures."
  • "Avigilon for the majority of cameras, Axis for any edge cases."
  • "We have primarily used Axis due to the reliability of the cameras. For audio, we have used Louroe microphones. In stations that I have visited I have seen older analog systems that have been in place for years. I also saw Avigilon at a station. Per the police chief, they had no say in the Avigilon system and it was decided by the general contractor."
  • "Pelco is most often asked for and/or recommended. While the brand has lost considerable luster with the general public, it is still highly regarded by LE. The durability, wide variety of vandal resistant housings and ability to integrate the PTZ's into other systems is significant."
  • "Axis, Panasonic and Mobotix. The Mobotix V-series is hard to be if you need an extremely tough camera, the others are chosen mainly for price since the feature sets are pretty much the same given what they are used for."
  • "Axis and Avigilon are most common. Axis is spec'd, Avigilon is offered as an alternate or via sales. I believe Axis is still recognized as "one of the best" available and is a defacto IP camera much like Pelco used to be in the Analog world. Avigilon is just good salesmanship."
  • "Axis, Pelco, Sanyo (legacy), and Samsung are most common. These brands were also used in city surveillance systems so Police Departments are familiar and experienced with them and use them in the police stations as well."

Low-Cost Options

However, especially in markets like Central America and Asia, budget drives selection more than any other single factor:

  • "Most often are cheap chinese no name cameras. They are chosen because police need to buy everything on public tenders."
  • "Hikvision is the current favorite."
  • "In Mexico it is lots of inexpensive brands, most are Hikvision types."
  • "Hikvision, performance and reliability is very good for a reasonable cost. We chose what to use."
  • "Our cities has little money for works like this, so price is always the biggest impoint, more cameras are bought as possible."

Common VMSes Deployed

Question: Which VMSes do you most often see in Police surveillance systems? Any idea why they are chosen?

Summary:  Brand preferences generally stick with well-know brands and did not reflect adoption of fringe or small players. In several cases, VMS specifications are mandated by higher authorities like National Police Agencies, DHS, DOC, or are scaled extensions of existing City Surveillance systems:

  • "Exaq is the system of choice by far. The factory reps do a great job of selling the systems, and they are for the most part, trouble free."
  • "Genetec for 95% of our applications because of the versatility for different network architectures and environments. We've used Exacq a few times where the systems were small and ease of use was important."
  • "We use Genetec and Milestone."
  • "Milestone, OnSSI, Genetec.  Easily upgradeable for growing systems. Good tech support."
  • "We often see Genetec and Milestone in Police surveillance systems. Police tend to be most interested in the advanced functionality that these VMSes offer."
  • "Mostly Verint to my PD customers, as they recognize the brand as almost every PD I ever been to has a Verint audio recording system for 911 dispatch."
  • "Aimetis, Genetec, Milestone. depending on the system integrator. the 3 brands are approved by the ministry of interior."

Ease of Use, Exporting Critical

  • "Genetec, they can output to the correct video format. If you can't get the courts to take the video it's less than worthless and the courts are not driven by the Police, they do what they want and want you to do what they want or forget about it."
  • "I have much respect for law enforcement but most do not have computer or network training. They are always impressed with how easy Avigilon is to use with minimum training and how quickly we can search and export video. In our experience an easy to use reliable solution is key."
  • "We used DW Spectrum for ease of use. The people using our system aren't technical and the system had to be simple to operate."
  • "Quick reviewing of video, flexible exporting options and robust client software are a couple of the reasons why I think Police departments tend to gravitate toward chosen solutions."

Audio Surveillance Use

Question: Is audio surveillance recording common in Police Departments?  Where? What are the main challenges in providing this?

Summary:  Recording converstations or spoken statements are a major deliverable in Police systems, as the video and audio interviews or coversations between suspects may contain admissible statements. While audio recording may not be used throughout, it is extensively deployed in interogation areas and holding cells:

Interview Rooms

  • "This was an absolute must have at the last Police Department deployment we installed. There were several interview rooms and booking rooms where audio and video were needed."
  • "Audio is common within interview rooms. "
  • "We record audio in the investigation rooms."
  • "Audio is required for interview room recordings. Obtaining high quality audio is a challenge with equipment developed for security applications, where audio was an afterthought."
  • "It is not common in public spaces or offices but it is part of the interview systems we routinely install."
  • "Audio surveillance recording is common in police departments. It is deployed in interrogation rooms according to the law."

Jail Cells

  • "In the interview rooms and the jail cells."
  • "There is audio recording in the intake areas of the cell block."
  • "Inside the holding cells recording is common, incriminating statements are frequently made inside."
  • "Visitation areas and the cells themselves."
  • "In my experience it is very common in holding cells, booking areas, and interview rooms."

Audio Quality Biggest Problem

We asked what the biggest issue in audio surveillance was for these applications, and the strongest feedback was on audio quality.  Whether precipitated by inferior microphones, poor placement of microphones, bad syncing of audio tracks with video, or even the acoustic harshness of the rooms themselves, optomising audio is not an easy task:

  • "Biggest problems are with quality of sound and attenuation."
  • "The biggest challenge was ensuring audio quality and that audio was in sync with the video. If the video was not in sync, it could be thrown out in court."
  • "A good system is getting difficult to deploy and integrate to the camera input on IP systems. It would be great if some did hi quality audio in more of a plug and play fashion for IP."
  • "Export audio with video lip sync is a huge issue."
  • "The primary challenge I have run across is there is nothing to absorb sound waves in many of these locations. The vast majority of these facilities are block walls with standard paint. I always advocate sound absorbing paint though that has a limited effect... it is better than no sound absorption."
  • "Main challenges are placement of microphone and background noise."
  • "Biggest challenge is controlling the acoustics in these areas as they are typically cinder block construction."
  • "Syncing audio and video and echoing sometimes is difficult resolve."

Separate Systems with Local Control Common

  • "Typically the interview room mics are external and controlled by a master AUDIO ON/OFF switch that kills power to the mics. We have never activated audio in public areas outside the HQ."
  • "we provide redundant recording so a mistake wont eliminate a murder confession as happened with earlier system"
  • "This is handled separately by an approved audio recorder."
  • "The only challenge we had was the camera had to be able to be easily turned off and on, so we ran the poe injector power through a light switch."
  • "These systems require a manual push button for start/stop with visual indication of on/off status."
  • "Our customers have asked for On/Off controls in each room activated by the detective as needed."

Recording Storage Duration

Question: How long are recordings typically kept?  What drives this?

Summary: In terms of practical use, one month is most common. The actual number of days is typically cited as 30 or 31 days and is usually driven by internal regulations.  However, while many departments would prefer long storage times, cost is the limiting fact.  Even when cost is not a problem, storage times seldom grow past 6 months.

One Month Typical

  • "30 days, same as any other system we install, though it's usually more strictly enforced by either the police chief or the city attorney."
  • "30 days unless it involves a felony. Usually departmental policy drives storage requirements."
  • "30 days typical, what the state recommends or what other PD's are doing. Some site the statue or limitations (2 years) as being ideal if practical."
  • "31 Days - For protection of officers and to investigate issues."
  • "30 days is most common with extended storage of video in some holding cells. One department actually wanted 6 months to 2 years of storage (ultimately could not afford) for juvenile holding cells to dispel claims of abuse long after the release from custody. "
  • "The state DA mandates no less than 31 days."
  • "In Romania is mandatory 30 days. In 30 days if something happened, for sure will be known."
  • "Recordings are kept for 30 days. This was driven by the police department's internal procedures. It was a smaller department and if an incident would occur, it would be exported to external media for long-term storage. This is how they handled any material that may need to be brought to court."

Cost Limitations

As far as leading reasons driving duration limits, cost of storage was the clear reason why video is not kept longer:

  • "Recordings are kept 45 days according to the regulations. It can be shorter than that due to budget constraints but it is mainly driven by regulations."
  • "Our clients want a year, but the budget typically buys 30 - 45 days."
  • "A year is often requested but budgets have prevented this in the past."
  • "The volume of data is the biggest factor. They will record until the drives are full, 45 or sometimes 90 days."

Longer Durations for Legal Issues

Interestingly, longer than 30 days of storage was cited as both a potential 'pro' and 'con'.  Several comments mentioned longer durations would be useful in quashing accusations after-the-fact, while others stated that keeping video too long could provide an opportunity for lawsuit attorneys to make money:

  • "30 days is most common with extended storage of video in some holding cells. One department actually wanted 6 months to 2 years of storage (ultimately could not afford) for juvenile holding cells to dispel claims of abuse long after the release from custody. Ultimately this seems to be a policy issue decided on by the departments themselves."
  • "HD storage capacity and the fact that most crimes are reported within 72 hours. It also becomes a liability archiving hundreds of thousands of hours of video. An unscrupulous attorney cannot subpoena video that no longer exists."

Common Integrations

Question: What type of third party integrations (access control, intrusion, emergency dispatch, etc.) are typical?

Summary:  Typically video for Police Stations are not integrated, but access control and intrusion are usually first if done.

  • "Mostly integration with intrusion and access control. Still no integration with dispatch center but such projects are in plan."
  • "Access. We don't really have many doing intrusion integration."
  • "Access control, intrusion, parking gates, intercom, public address, video with public display. The integration of intrusion with VMS is just coming around. Within police stations there are many secure areas in which the police want to restrict use, we are seeing Genetec using active directory and DMP become leaders in this area. The ability to prevent cards holders from having access to a door when behind the door there is an alarm panel and knowing the credential holder doesn't have permission to disarm the alarm panel is logical processing of data."
  • "1-access control 2-fire alarm 3-duress system."
  • "Mainly access control, and intrusion."
  • "Access control is typical especially in lobby and other secured areas. Often time there is a guard that must allow passage into a secured area and this is typically done with an access control integration."

None Most Common

But even then, many (if not most) systems stand alone and are not integrated at all, usually because of cost or just plain lack of need:

  • "Access Control exists, but in the 3 PDs I have worked on it is not integrated due to budget concerns. The only sort-of integration is with "panic buttons" tied to a relay port of a nearby IP camera that will notify and pop a screen in the Squad room when the button is pushed."
  • "The site we support has access control, but it is not integrated. There is also personal alert system, which also is not integrated with the CCTV system."
  • "Few if any. Systems are segregated to this point."
  • "Access control is also deployed inside police departments but there is not much integration with the camera systems so far."
  • "Free CCTV/Access integration is always a "meh, might as well". Camera popup in dispatch on a front desk panic alarm is somewhat common."

Who Writes the Specifications?

Question: Who typically writes the Police surveillance system specification? Does this result in good results? Why or why not?

Summary:  In general, integrators or dealers take a central role as members of a 'steering committee'. Unlike City or Airport Surveillance where Consultants take the lead, Police Departments commonly take a more locally sourced approach to system designs.

Committees Common

Many integrator members explained that they have key voices driving system specifications for Police systems:

  • "Since we had worked with the department on previous projects and they already had a previous analog installation, they knew what improvements they wanted to see at the range, so they assisted us in developing the new system."
  • "We have always dealt directly with the Chief or Captain and, luckily for us, they have always known what they want AND listened to our input."
  • "Typically they already have a vendor in mind who will be writing the specification for them discretely. I have been this vendor on multiple occasions."
  • "Same as any other CCTV system: if we design it, or if it's designed by an engineer that knows what the hell they're doing wrt IP CCTV, the system is great and does what they need."
  • "They typically ask us to design it. It does have better results because we have control of what and where equipment gets put in and we can have a better understanding of what the customers needs are."
  • "My self as the engineer and the Deputy Chief of Police or lead detective created the design for the system. I provided the system specifications based on the needs of the department. It has provided great results considering that they are the ones who know the problem areas better than myself and the are aware of any potential investigations where video is critical."

Biggest Improvement Needed

Question: How would you improve the Police surveillance systems you have worked on?

Summary: Like many systems, Police video use tends to grow over time. This results in systems scaling and expanding without a strong central plan in mind, leaving details like upgrades and maintentance low priorities or ignored until problems happen:

Better Planning

  • "Most systems are not well planned out in their current form. There may have been great plans at one time, but over the years systems are cobbled together. The best way to improve some of these systems is to take the time to unify them under one platform and keep administration of the entire system to one small team of PD staff that also includes an engineer from the integration company."
  • "Have a spec written by someone that knows what they are doing."
  • "Change procurement standard, write minimum police dept. standards, accross the board , prison grade minimums, Spend more on upgrades, not patches to existing Junk. Complete annual upgrades for 5 year changes min."
  • "Police don't have money for anything. Upgrades are easy to get them to see the benefit, just hard for them to get the funding. The Police themselves have a different mindset, it is not unusual to see a police car running with no one in it and not locked."

Better Technology

Other comments made it clear that a simple revamp of new technology (higher resolutions, more capable designs) would have a big impact:

  • "Avoid repurposing analog cameras that are in place and definitely do not install new ones. The cameras in place are frequently low resolution, black and white, and in various states of poor maintenance. This frequently resulted in investing time trying to make the analog cameras somewhat usable."
  • "Better cameras at choke points, WDR where necessary (this is a hilariously consistent issue), panoramic cameras outdoors, etc."
  • "more cameras in to cover more angles or utilize the new 360 degree technology to have a wider view of everything going on."
  • "Upgrade the sensors ( cameras) to a higher quality and HD. Typically the networks we work on are fairly robust. Make sure the customer understands the importance of a service agreement that allows for remote maintenance and upgrades."
  • "I would add some higher resolution cameras and better microphones in a couple installations."

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